Reader's View: 52 Mondays toward a healthier community


June 7, 2013 

Sally Jeffcoat.

At Saint Alphonsus, "improving the health of our communities" is not just a nice-sounding catchphrase in our mission statement - it's what we are really all about.

While we are proud of the recognition we receive for excellence in patient care and our ability to carefully steward resources to sustain our ministry, we are driven by a worthy goal to elevate the health status of the communities we serve, including our own internal associate community.

We use a deliberate process for prioritizing and collaborating to address community health improvement efforts, knowing that we can't fix all the world's problems on our own. Every three years, we collaborate to conduct community needs assessments in each of the communities served by our facilities. These assessments are rich with data describing the changing demographics and health needs in each community, balanced with input and feedback from community members themselves.

We use this combination of health indicator data and community input to prioritize and target efforts around addressing the top health needs. Recent assessments have highlighted alarming trends in obesity and diabetes rates, echoing a national problem and humbling us with the realization that despite all of the outdoor recreation the Treasure Valley has to offer, we are not immune.

Saint Alphonsus decided to make it a priority to focus on obesity prevention through collaboration with other partners to help shift the culture in our community, and find ways to make the healthy choice the EASY choice. So, in June 2012, we joined with our community partners in health - Shannon and Rich Harris, owners of Bandanna Running & Walking - to start Meet Me Monday, a free weekly fun run/walk in Downtown Boise for all ages and abilities (and including dogs!). Every Monday evening, even in nasty weather and on holidays, we greet individuals and families who gather at the Pioneer/Old Boise Building, sign in and get out for a 1-, 2- or 3-mile walk or run, choosing either a "greatest hits of Downtown" route or a mostly Greenbelt route, although everyone is free to use whatever route they would like. Afterward the crowd reconvenes at 6:45 p.m. for quick announcements, often highlighting local nonprofit events focusing on health and wellness; prize drawings; and an award presentation with incentive prizes for those who have participated in MMM 8, 16, and 50 times.

During our first year of MMM, we registered more than 1,000 participants and we have seen amazing stories unfold, including a young family with 3-year-old twin boys who have attended every week and were the first to receive their 50-timer running hats (they even walked in costumes for Halloween).

We've also heard from participants that MMM provided them the little push they needed to lose weight and get healthier - this is what we're about, creating a culture of health where we encourage each other and use the beauty of our city as an asset to improving health.

At the end of each MMM, we lead the crowd in a cheer of "Get Out!" - and we are happy that no matter what the weather, our MMM regulars are truly getting out and getting fit. We invite you to join Meet Me Monday in celebrating the one-year anniversary, 52 straight weeks of MMM, on Monday, June 10.

Sign-in starts at 5:15 p.m. at the Pioneer/Old Boise Building, on the northeast corner of 6th & Main. We will have fun entertainment for the whole family, and prize giveaways to commemorate the occasion. Get out and join us!

Sally Jeffcoat is president and CEO of the Saint Alphonsus Health System.

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